Neighborhoods

Happy Summer: Coney Island’s Luna Park Is Open for Business

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New Yorkers have a bunch of ways of telling that it’s summer. Power grids being overloaded is one way. Everyone you can’t stand leaving the five boroughs is another. But the first surefire indicator that it’s summer — beyond sweating in places you forgot you had the ability to sweat in, of course — is Coney Island “opening,” which it did today, with the first operating day of Coney Island’s new amusement park, Luna Park. How’s it going?

Well, it’s alive. We know that much. For now.

See, the fate of Coney Island and Luna Park is a strange one. Most communities in America would rather there not be an amusement park in their backyard. Coney Island is fighting so that there can be more amusement park space than ever. And Luna Park’s opening today, notes The Wall Street Journal, represents a small victory for community activists:

Last summer, the Bloomberg administration passed a redevelopment plan for a 19-block area of Coney Island that paves the way for new hotels, parks and restaurants. Many community groups at the time criticized the plan calling it short-sighted and a radical departure from the neighborhood’s historic past. The rezoning allows for about 5,000 new units of housing to be built in the north and east sections of Coney Island.

Residents are still pushing for an expansion of the amusement park area. The fate of several historic buildings is still undetermined. Adding a new amusement park “won’t matter if you demolish the whole place and build a cookie cutter development,” said Juan Rivero, a spokesman for Save Coney Island, a non-profit group.

So basically, it’s the Fun People vs. the Fun Police (read: corporate real estate development interests who will make more money off of people living in miserable housing than they will off of people having fun on fun rides), and today, the Fun People might just ride again. Might. Because while some New Yorkers are excited about it for ethnocentric reasons:

And others are excited about it because it’s just within reach:

Some are a little nonplussed:

Yet there remain some, like Kevin Baker, the writer of this week’s Village Voice cover story, who just think its future is grim, so you better enjoy it while it lasts:

The news that the wrecking crews will be back came just as Coney was looking forward to its best summer in years. The Ringling Bros. Circus is set to return, along with a new park run by Central Amusement International and featuring 19 tempting high-tech rides designed by the internationally renowned Zamperla company.

But (some of) the rides should be working, no? According to the Journal, “nine of the amusement park’s 19 rides had obtained permits and were up and running.” Maybe someone got there a little early? Technical troubles? NY1 has video of the FunMachines in action, so yes, they are real, but if you hear anything or want to give us any ride reviews of Coney Island, we’d be glad to hear them out. Whatever the case may be, open or not, you might want to go just to see them. New York’s a fleeting city, but the fate of Coney — one of its most important landmarks — is still very up in the air. Might want to give it a last look before it comes screaming down.

[fkamer@villagevoice.com]

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